IDC Manufacturing Insights has recently released a new report detailing the prevalence and application of big data analytics (BDA) across manufacturing segments, while also identifying patterns in which leaders across the manufacturing industry are utilizing BDA to maximize its potential. Heather Ashton, Research Manager and one of the chief authors of the report, discusses the findings and offers input on the present and future of BDA, a sophisticated yet highly insightful tool in what is an increasingly complex business world.

IDC Manufacturing Insights is a global advisory and IT research organization that takes a vertical look at how manufacturers across all the sub segments are taking technology and applying it to their business needs. Through this mission, Ashton says that the motivating factor behind the report was to provide manufacturers with help in understanding where they can expect to receive value from BDA today and which applications are receiving the greatest attention. “Every year, we conduct a survey across several thousand companies and, divided by their respective sectors, take an in-depth look across four different kinds of technologies, those being BDA, cloud, mobile, and social,” she says, adding, “We were particularly interested in BDA, because we had been seeing all sorts of investment into technology and innovation across vertical industries, especially in manufacturing.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • According to IDC’s 2013 Global Technology and Industry research Organization IT Survey, nearly 51 percent of respondents expect to generate new revenue streams from BDA projects, while 36 percent expect to increase operation efficiencies from big data initiatives.
  • There are many different approaches for manufacturers to leverage the potential of big data and analytics, some of which will be specific to the industry segment in which they compete. Survey results highlight the ways in which different manufacturing value chains are choosing to apply BDA to their unique business challenges and opportunities.
  • As manufacturers build the systems for capturing the right combinations of structured and unstructured data and applying analytics tools to move the needle in real time, the results of BDA investments will be seen across manufacturers’ value chains as they increasingly become demand oriented, data driven, and digitally executed.
  • Ideally, manufacturers should recognize BDA as an enabler for providing a picture of what has happened, what is happening right now (real-time or near real-time info), and what will happen tomorrow and in the future.

“What we’re seeing this year is very interesting, because while we have been asking these same questions over the past few years, this year we actually saw a real shift from a significant level of uncertainty surrounding BDA and how to apply it, to where manufacturers are now starting to actualize the benefits of it in projects across their supply chains, which is where you see those reported figures of ‘new revenue streams’ and ‘operational efficiencies’ come into play.”

Ashton says that with regards to the supply chain, they look at four sub segments, or value chains, of manufacturing to determine how different industries are utilizing and applying BDA, so they can be better served in the future. The four value chains are Engineer-oriented (Aerospace, Defense, Industrial Equipment, Heavy Machinery, etc), Brand-oriented (Consumer Products), Technology-oriented (Hi-tech products, Semi Conductor Equipment, etc), and Asset-oriented (Chemical, Pulp and Paper, etc).

“In engineer-oriented manufacturing, BDA is being utilized to increase operational efficiency, and in brand-oriented manufacturing it’s more about customization of applications to create insight and social interactions,” she says, continuing, “Alternatively, in both asset- and technology-oriented manufacturing, they’re using BDA in their business processes to find exaction on process improvements, like the ones that govern their supply chains.”

Ashton says that amongst the respondents they surveyed, BDA appears to be most heavily used by companies of larger sizes due to their infrastructure capabilities and investing power, a notion supported by the fact that the IDC estimates the BDA market will grow to $16.9 billion by 2015. And yet, she says that given the evidence that BDA is not a one-size fits all kind of tool, small and medium size companies could soon find benefits from all-encompassing analytics as well. “We’re seeing a growth curve of more and more companies turning to BDA to improve their supply chain, manufacturing, or other related processes,” she says, adding, “About 30 percent of our respondents are actively engaged in it and we expect that number to grow by another ten percent in 2015.”

It’s not just the future that brings optimism to Ashton, but also the present as well. “We’ve advanced into this exciting stage where manufacturers are getting into learning and applying sensors to all of their value chains to generate data to put themselves in a position to be able to utilize tools like predictive analytics and perhaps apply them from the top of the organization right down to the plant floor.”

The report seeks to assist manufacturers understand their own big data and analytics and how to go about considering their strategy and approach. Because it’s not just about capturing the data, but putting it to work as well.

About the International Data Corporation (IDC)
The IDC is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications and consumer technology markets. IDC helps IT professionals, business executives, and the investment community make fact-based decisions on technology purchases and business strategy. More than 1,100 IDC analysts provide global, regional, and local expertise on technology and industry opportunities and trends in over 110 countries worldwide. For 50 years, IDC has provided strategic insights to help our clients achieve their key business objectives. IDC is a subsidiary of IDG, the world’s leading technology media, research, and events company.


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